SBJ/Feb. 7-13, 2011/In Depth

CrowdWave getting fans out of their seats

CrowdWave technology uses cameras and software to interpret body movements of fans in specific seating sections and then uses those combined fan movements to power games or surveys on a video board. The technology measures the coordination, direction and intensity of fans to power the games.

CrowdWave President Mark Edwards said he developed the concept after the debut of Nintendo’s popular Wii gaming system.

Hugo Boss sponsors a CrowdWave dance game featured at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought it might be possible to do for 40,000 people what Nintendo was doing for two people,” Edwards said. “It’s a very primal and social way of communicating; you just get up and move.”

Edwards tested his system with the Ottawa 67’s junior hockey team for six months before debuting it in March 2010 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, the company has installed its technology in New York’s Madison Square Garden, American Airlines Center in Dallas, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Philips Arena in Atlanta and Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Ten teams currently use CrowdWave, and Edwards hopes to be with 24 teams by year’s end.

CrowdWave operates as a vendor to individual venues, and Edwards said the service’s cost depends on the size of the venue, the number of games used by the venue, and the length of the contract. Edwards declined to discuss the specific range in cost.

Of the company’s 30 or so games, the most popular is a dancing competition. Others include a tug-of-war, a Zamboni race and trivia games. Edwards hopes more teams use the technology to help fans choose more traditional arena entertainment, such as music and highlights.

Howard Jacobs, executive vice president of marketing and sales with Madison Square Garden Sports, said the technology takes a new step with fan engagement and marketing opportunities. MSG debuted the technology in October with the Knicks and recently signed Hugo Boss to sponsor CrowdWave’s dancing game.

“It really pays off when there is a prize involved, where fans can win something or are rewarded for their participation,” Jacobs said. “We think that is the key to elevating the fan experience.”

— Fred Dreier

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